Indicted Jacksonville City Council members plead not guilty

Katrina Brown, Reggie Brown suspended by governor pending federal trial

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two suspended Jacksonville City Council members indicted on federal money laundering charges entered not guilty pleas Monday at their arraignment.

Katrina Brown and Reggie Brown appeared at the federal courthouse on charges connected to a combined 38-count indictment unsealed in late May.

Trial is tentatively set for September, and the pair will be back in court Aug. 20 for a status conference.

Prosecutors said they have about 25,000 documents of discovery material in the case.

The federal charges accuse the Browns, who are not related, of using Katrina Brown's family barbecue businesses and a business set up by Reggie Brown to submit fake invoices to their lender for services the businesses had not provided.

Katrina Brown had planned to be represented by former federal prosecutor Curtis Fallgatter. But since she's been suspended from the City Council pending the outcome of the criminal charges, she no longer receives her $3,000 a month pay.

At a Thursday status hearing, Brown acknowledged she did not have a steady source of income. As a result, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Klindt found she could not afford private counsel and needed a court-appointed lawyer. Attorney Darcy Galnor will fill that role.

Reggie Brown also cannot afford a private attorney, and Klindt appointed Jacksonville attorney Thomas Bell to represent him.

As he entered the federal courthouse on Monday, Reggie Brown repeated what he has said to cameras at every court appearance:

"Definitely not guilty."

UNCUT: Reggie Brown answers questions as he leaves federal courthouse

Katrina Brown remained silent and declined to answer reporters' questions.

Federal prosecutors said the Browns' businesses handled nearly $3 million in federal and city loans and grants and that the Browns used the money for personal use and hid the paper trail.

Katrina Brown is named in 37 counts, including conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and attempted bank fraud. She could face up to 720 years in federal prison and $12,250,000 in fines if convicted on all counts. 

Reggie Brown is named in 34 counts, including conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and a tax charge. He could face up to 601 years in prison and $8,275,000 in fines if convicted on all counts. 

The Browns were suspended by Gov. Rick Scott pending the outcome of their trial. Scott will appoint replacements who will serve the Browns respective districts in the meantime.

Until those appointments are announced, at-large Councilman Samuel Newby is taking over District 8, and at-large Councilwoman Anna Lopez-Brosche is taking over District 10.

Dozens of men and women have applied to be considered for the appointments. The replacements would likely serve until the Browns' terms end June 30, 2019, or the federal investigation ends, whichever comes first.

While neither Brown has resigned from office, all traces of them have been removed from the City Council offices. Their photos are down, name plates removed and references to them on the city's website have been scrubbed.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.